PRIVATIZATION AND ACCESS: THE CHILEAN HIGHER EDUCATION EXPERIMENT AND ITS DISCONTENTS
- Author(s): Gonzales, Cristina
- Pedraja, Liliana
- et al.
President Barack Obama recently announced a proposal to eliminate tuition charges at community colleges so that everyone can easily complete the first two years of a university education. At the same time, the administration is creating new regulations to curb the worst abuses of for-profit universities. This suggests that the country has reached a turning point regarding access to higher education. There is a practical limit to privatization, and the countries that have privatized their higher education systems most aggressively, such is the case of the United States, are now reaching it. One country where the increase in university tuition has reached the limit of what the public will tolerate is Chile, where the most deliberate and comprehensive university privatization experiment in the world was carried out and where the most intense student protests calling for greater access have occurred, bringing this issue to the forefront of the nation’s political discourse. Indeed, President Michelle Bachelet has recently promised to make higher education free of charge. This essay examines the recent history of Chilean universities and current debates regarding tuition and inequality that reflect a similar discussion in the US regarding whether higher education is a public or private good, and who should pay for it.